Human Resources Is About the High Road Not the High Horse

A couple of weeks ago, I read a local HR advice column. The content of the question isn’t as important as the content of the answer; it is in this that influenced my post today.

The answer, given to the inquiring and somewhat “new” HR professional, was the ensure her own butt was figuratively covered and move forward with what management wanted, even though it was borderline “risky ” (idiot columnist words…the behavior in question was actually legally actionable) and even though an employee would have probably been “harmed” in her employment.

Oh my goodness, how I wanted to strangle the columnist (who, by the way, has never been an HR professional but that’s a different soap box I’ll save for another time).

The columnist was wrong!

HR Professionals MUST commit to doing the right thing, regardless of how hard it is to do.

[Tweet “Being in HR isn’t popular, but it’s not supposed to be. #dotherightthing”]

Managers push back HARD when HR professionals offer advice and counsel.

Why? Because the sound and just suggestions are typically the harder roads to take, the ones in which time, effort and discomfort are required.

So Managers push, they complain, they threaten and the pressure to allow them to take the easy (dare I say low) road is often difficult to bare.


Managers often excuse their “voluntary non-compliance” with the claim that they are “managing risk.” They tell us not to worry about the action or decision because it’s not our head on the platter, it’s the manager’s own head on the platter. Managers tell us the employees won’t know the difference and therefore, won’t know enough to complain. Shoot, sometimes even fellow HR Professionals encourage us to weigh the probability of getting caught against the trouble of doing the right thing in the first place.

You don’t think this happens?

Pull your head out – you know I’m right.

You’ve had a manager convince you to classify an employee as exempt even though you didn’t really think the duties justified it. You’ve had a manager suggest you don’t engage in the ADA interactive process because the employee hasn’t used magic words to request an accommodation. You’ve had a manager suggest to you that “at will” employment actually means something, regardless of good faith. You’ve had fellow employees who skimmed over background checks because they take a long time and are often not that helpful. You’ve had a boss tell you the employee who complained about derogatory racial remarks has always been a troublemaker and that you shouldn’t put a lot of weight into his complaint. You’ve been told that the culture at your new employer allows for a bit of crassness and sexual innuendo and that it’s just something that goes with the territory. You’ve been pressured to “toughen up” or “lighten up.”

So you’ve done nothing, you’ve decided to let it play out and hope all goes well, or you’ve decided to keep your head down and your blinders on because hell, that’s comfortable.

[Tweet “Ignoring wrongdoing is condoning wrongdoing. #dotherightthing”]

This saddens me like nobody’s business, and it should sadden you too.

The figurative fork in the road comes often and you may think you are faced with a tough decision but you’re not, there is but one road! And I believe we should ALWAYS choose Principle Lane, Ethics Parkway, Moral Road or Honest Avenue.

It’s not easy but it’s right.

  • We owe it to the employees.
  • We owe it to the Employer.
  • We owe it to our profession to do the right thing time and time again!

I beg you to remember our purpose. We are the moral compass of our organizations. We are gatekeepers, we set the standard, and we drive the culture. We provide the foundation on which a fair and just organization rests. Furthermore, please don’t lose sight of the fact that we are now and should continue to be leaders, and that leaders step in to the discomfort if it’s the right thing to do.

As an HR Professional, I cannot be afraid of nose bleeds – care to join me on the high road?



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